XOXOLAT – Chocolate 101 (Chocolate Tasting Class)

Life is like a box of chocolates.

Restaurant: XOXOLAT
Cuisine:
Chocolate/Desserts
Last visited:
August 10, 2011
Location:
Vancouver, BC (Kitsilano)
Address:
2391 Burrard Street (& 8th)
Price Range:
$10 or less

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 4
Service: 5
Ambiance: 3.5
Overall: 4.5
Additional comments:

  • Owner/Chocolatier Hodie Rondeau
  • Chocolate boutique shop
  • Artisan chocolates
  • Local favourite
  • Classic & creative chocolates
  • Hand made chocolates
  • Imported chocolate bars
  • Largest selection of single origin chocolate imports
  • Gift shop
  • Chocolate Tasting Classes
  • Organic/Fair trade chocolate
  • Tuesday to Saturday 10:30am – 6pm
  • Sunday 12pm – 5pm

**Recommendations: Pistachio Truffle, Praline Espresso Truffle, Key Lime Truffle, Mango Caramel Truffle, Maple Caramel Truffle, Sipping chocolate, Cardamom Crème Brulée, Sea Salt & Sour Cherry Bar, Lime & Tortilla Chip Bar, Bacon Chocolate Bar, 75% Madagascar Chocolate Bar

Xoxolat is one of Vancouver BC’s handcrafted artisan chocolate boutiques. Offering a wide selection of hand made chocolate truffles and chocolate bars, it is also one of the few and only chocolate shops offering affordable Chocolate 101 classes that are open to the general public.

The Chocolate 101 tasting class is led by the incredibly knowledgeable, passionate and enthusiastic owner and chocolatier Hodie Rondeau. I love her! I’ve actually met Hodie on a few previous occasions, but it was fabulous to see her in action in the comfort of her own “home”.

It’s an intimate and casual one hour informational session on chocolate and of course it includes little nibbles as you go along. Trust me the nibbles work and she slowly guides you through the origins, percentages, as well as a few of her signature Xoxolat flavours. At the end of the class everyone receives a box of handmade Xoxolat chocolate truffles  and 10% off any purchases made that evening.

Along with my sister I attended one of the classes and never have I been so excited to go back to school! Even the “homework” was great!

Chocolate high heel shoes! What more could a foodie like me ask for?

I love chocolate, but I love chocolatiers even more. The dedication and passion they have for one ingredient, being cocoa, astonishes me. I mentioned in my Cocoa West Chocolatier post that just like chefs, every chocolatier has their own unique style. For me the type of chocolate used is just as important as how they are used and interpreted by the chocolatier. After all, chocolate is just chocolate (I’m referring to good quality chocolate), but the art of chocolate making can change everything.

Xoxolat is one of the more well known lines of artisan chocolates in Vancouver. I’ve tried them on many occasions, but it was my first time in the actual store. The store is divided into three sections: the imported chocolates, the house made Xoxolat chocolate bars, and the handmade Xoxolat chocolate truffles.

Xoxolat actually carries the largest selection of imported single origin chocolates in Vancouver. Supporting local is great, but when it comes to chocolate, it’s almost like wine or cheese, there’s just some qualities and types that can’t be produced locally. Personally I’ve never considered imported chocolate to be a bad thing, as long as their fair trade, and these ones are organic and fair trade.

The imported chocolate bars were nice to learn about, but I was most interested in the Xoxolat hand made truffles. For me, this is most representable of the brand and what I see the most value in.

Xoxolat chocolates are incredibly Hodie in style, flavour and presentation. When a chocolate speaks of the chocolatier’s personality, that is something I look for, and to some degree it matters more than how good the chocolates really are.

The chocolates are vibrant, multi-coloured, patterned, playful, bold and fearless in flavours and presentation. The flavour combinations are sophisticated in their own unique ways and I admire Hodie for being adventurous and fun with the art. They might not be the best hand made truffles I’ve had, but I would still recommend them as a solid choice for chocolate lovers.

I have to admit, that after Cocoa West Chocolatier and this Xoxolat chocolate 101 class, I’m kind of becoming a chocolate snob. Everything just starts to taste different when you start to really get into it, and I’m getting quite specific with how I like my chocolates and what I look for now.

These are some of Xoxolat’s handmade chocolate bars, and also a couple imported ones we bought after her class.

I liked the intensity and creativity of the flavours, but some truffles worked better than others, and I actually generally enjoyed the Xoxolat chocolate bars more. The quality of ingredients used are very good, but not premium, and the focus on freshness is there, but perhaps not of most importance. They have about a one month shelf life compared to the ultimate fresh ones that last about 10 days, but it also means they’re more affordable.

They’re still made with all natural ingredients, and they’re still great chocolates, but I personally like the soft truffles that melt in your mouth with creamy centres that ooze out like the ones from Cocoa West Chocolatier (see here), but that’s just my personal tastes. The chocolate shells on these hand made truffles were just a bit uneven at times, and they have more of a hard crunch than a crispness like the chocolates from Thierry Busset or Thomas Haas might have. Chocolates are personal so I encourage you to sample chocolatiers to see whose style and personality suits your chocolate cravings best.

On the table:

Vanilla Cream2.5/6

  • About $1.60 each or 18 pieces for $28
  • I couldn’t really taste the vanilla, except for in the very beginning. I could see some vanilla bean seeds, but I could have used more.
  • The centre was slightly “artificial” for me because I was expecting a rich, creamy, milky and fresh vanilla bean cream filling.
  • This one was just a bit heavy in butter and sugar, but it doesn’t taste oily, it’s just not the flavour or texture of fresh cream.
  • I think a creamy rich vanilla bean white chocolate ganache in the centre would be great as well.

**Key Lime Truffle 4/6

  • About $1.60 each or 18 pieces for $28
  • It definitely tasted like what it was.
  • It’s more chocolate than key lime in flavour but there was a fresh zest and brightness in the very beginning from the creamy centre. It continued and finished with mostly bittersweet chocolate flavours.
  • I would have loved if the filling was more of a white chocolate cream filling, but again it was a bit more of a butter and sugar filling.
  • I think this one would have been great with a chocolate base that carried citrus notes.

Orange Chocolate Truffle – 2/6

  • About $1.60 each or 18 pieces for $28
  • I’m not sure if this is what it was and I think it was a seasonal special because it wasn’t listed on the official flavours chart.
  • I’m really not a fan of chocolate and orange, especially if it’s not a very fresh orange, and I think this had some Grand Marnier in it, so I’m biased.
  • I have liked chocolate and orange combinations before, but this wasn’t particularly for me.

Mango Guava Truffle2/6

  • About $1.60 each or 18 pieces for $28
  • This was more like a chocolate covered fruit jelly so it had that strong candied fruit and chocolate combination.
  • It was more like a candy than a chocolate truffle and it was a bit too sugary for my tastes.
  • The jelly was quite tangy and bright with tropical flavours, but I wouldn’t have really guessed it was mango and guava and would have suggest lime first.
  • I love the flavour combination, but I’m personally not huge on fruit jellies when it’s such a thick layer.

Pomegranate Blueberry Truffle3.5/6

  • About $1.60 each or 18 pieces for $28
  • It almost smelled like a raspberry sorbet and I’d say it tasted like it too.
  • It was probably the brightest and most tart in flavours and the raspberry flavour was really bold. For sure I would have guessed raspberry before pomegranate or blueberry and I really think it could have been a seasonal special that got mixed in the box.

Passionfruit Matcha – 3/6

  • About $1.60 each or 18 pieces for $28
  • I had my eye on this the moment I walked in.
  • It was a bit too heavy on the white chocolate for me so it was a bit too sweet for my liking.
  • I tasted a very subtle tartness from the passionfruit if I looked for it and I couldn’t taste the matcha until the very very end.
  • This is ideal for white chocolate lovers and I’m more for dark chocolate although I love this combination of flavours.

**Mango Caramel Truffle4.5/6

  • About $1.60 each or 18 pieces for $28
  • I loved the buttery creamy centre which had a beautiful rich and smooth caramel that wasn’t too sweet.
  • I couldn’t really taste the mango, but I think it helped to build the texture of the caramel centre.
  • I didn’t even care that I couldn’t really taste the mango except for a slight tartness at the end because the caramel was so amazing on its own.

Strawberry English Breakfast Truffle – 4/6

  • About $1.60 each or 18 pieces for $28
  • I could smell the bright and fruity strawberries before I even ate it which was great!
  • It was a softer chocolate with a milk chocolate base and it was a bit gritty in texture from the ground English Breakfast Tea leaves. At times it was bit crunchy and I thought it was espresso without the espresso flavour.
  • It was quite “girly” and fruity and I could taste the sweet strawberries in the beginning, but it did smell more like strawberries than it tasted.
  • It was stronger with strawberry and I couldn’t really taste the English Breakfast, besides its texture, but I think an infusion of the leaves into the chocolate would have worked really well with this one.

Lavender Truffle4/6

  • About $1.60 each or 18 pieces for $28
  • I could smell the lavender right away and this is definitely for people who love lavender because it was really strong and people may even consider it soapy.
  • I love lavender so I like it when it’s in your face, but I could see a lot of people finding this one too strong. Even I found it strong.
  • It had a creamy lavender milk chocolate ganache centre and no actual lavender leaves and I liked the infusion used in this one.

**Maple Caramel Truffle4.5/6

  • About $1.60 each or 18 pieces for $28
  • I didn’t expect to like this one so much.
  • This was super soft and it melted in your mouth. I loved the texture and I could taste the buttery rich maple flavour in the beginning.
  • The filling was sweet so I’m glad it was balanced out with a dark bittersweet chocolate shell.

Hazelnut Truffle2.5/6

  • About $1.60 each or 18 pieces for $28
  • This was getting into my favourite combination with chocolate, the nut combination.
  • This tasted much more like a buttery pecan caramel than hazelnut to me and it was a milk chocolate base so it was a bit too sweet for my liking.
  • I would have preferred more hazelnut flavour and it actually didn’t taste like hazelnut to me.
  • A hazelnut crunch would have been nice too instead of just the creamy filling and I think I could taste a bit of liqueur in there as well.

**Pistachio Truffle6/6

  • About $1.60 each or 18 pieces for $28
  • I love pistachio so I had my eyes on this one as soon as I walked in.
  • This was so obviously pistachio and it had a lovely creamy green pistachio white chocolate ganache in the centre.
  • I actually could have went a notch less white chocolate and a notch higher pistachio paste, but it was still my favourite truffle.
  • The colour was great and the flavour was so buttery with pistachio flavour, but not oily and the hint of bittersweet dark chocolate was the perfect accompaniment.
  • Personally I like nutty textures, so even better would be the crunch of an added canided pistachio.

**Praline Espresso Truffle4.5/6

  • About $1.60 each or 18 pieces for $28
  • This was amazing. It was the only one that had so much texture!
  • I could have used more of a nutty praline crunch and it was more of a ground espresso bean crunch, but it was still good.
  • It was crispy and nutty with lots of candied roasted ground espresso beans and the flavour was extended through the whole chocolate.
  • It was perfectly sweet and perfectly bitter and incredibly aromatic.
  • The bitter sweet chocolate was a great match too and it just enhanced the espresso. This is definitely made for espresso lovers.

Machi Picchi Coffee Truffle3.5/6

  • About $1.60 each or 18 pieces for $28
  • This was actually quite sweet and it did have a finer ground crumb of espresso beans than the praline espresso.
  • It was quite creamy and it had a milk chocolate base so it was sweeter and it made the coffee flavour even lighter.
  • It was a very light coffee flavour so this would be great for someone who is not a major espresso lover, but enjoys the milder espresso flavours.

Chocolate Truffle2.5/6

  • About $1.60 each or 18 pieces for $28
  • This was a bit sweet for my liking, and personally I wasn’t keen on the round truffles and preferred the square ones.
  • The filling was a creamy chocolate and caramel filling but it was heavier on chocolate flavour. It was a bit stiff for me because I like when my truffle centres pour out.

Toasted Coconut Truffle – 3/6

  • About $1.60 each or 18 pieces for $28
  • I couldn’t smell the coconut, but I could taste it as soon as it hit my tongue, but the coconut flavour disappeared quite quickly.
  • I would have preferred a creamy coconut ganache or centre, and the caramel and chocolate ganache was a bit stiff and sweet for my liking.
  • I think it’s a coconut extract and then there’s toasted coconut on top too, but I would have liked a more natural coconut presence especially since I love coconut.

Champagne Truffle3.5/6

  • About $1.60 each or 18 pieces for $28
  • I couldn’t smell the champagne, but I could taste it immediately.
  • It was milk chocolate based so a bit too sweet for my liking, but it did taste like what it was and the champagne wasn’t over powering or bitter, but noticeable, fun and quite “girly”.

Rum Ball1.5/6

  • About $1.60 each or 18 pieces for $28
  • I’ve never enjoyed rum balls so I’m pretty biased with this one.
  • I could definitely taste the rum, but at least there was enough bittersweet chocolate to offset the flavour.
  • For some reason it had the creamiest centre out of all the round chocolate truffles though and I’m not sure if that was due to freshness or just the ingredients in this flavour.

**Cardamom Crème Brulée6/6

  • If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on one these, get one!
  • They’re made exclusively for Atithi Indian Cuisine restaurant just up the block from Xoxolat. They serve a big one with your order of Galub Jamun – see here.
  • It has a very thin chocolate shell and it’s filled with creamy cardamom scented custard and topped with crispy bits of caramelized sugar, which we all know as brulée.
  • It’s the truffle that stands out as having that velvety smooth real cream texture and flavour that melts in your mouth. I call this a bite of India’s heaven.
  • This is perhaps my favourite chocolate of all from Xoxolat.

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